The decision to see a therapist was not an easy one to make. It was a constant nudge in the back of my brain for months until a rough night of insomnia forced me to finally make the call, and wait anxiously. Once the day came for me to sit in front of this welcoming stranger, chosen for me by an in-take specialist, a tremendous amount of guilt pounded in my body. I began to shiver, like I was cold, though the Arizona temperature was a comfortable sixty degrees for January. This feeling I knew well. If you were ever sitting right next to me when this reaction appeared, you'd never know. It was a very internal environment. And it was ruining my life.
On the surface, everything in my life was going so well. My little daughter was the happiest goofball who brought lots of color into my world. I had a simple part time job that required no effort or stress on my part which paid me well over the minimum wage. I was about to complete a one year program in school in which I passed with straight A's with the opportunity of beginning an actual career, and I was recently engaged to the love of my life, with plans of a beautiful, laid back wedding in the woods.
So why was I so unhappy? How did I possibly end up in a therapist's office on a bright sunny afternoon while the happy world around me went about their day?
Anxiety. It's such a bland, over-used word, a word really without a definition. I found it hard to describe to my therapist, or anyone else for that matter, what exactly I was feeling, what it was that made me so unhappy. Depression, for me, was easy. Anxiety was tricky.
Anxiety cannot be defined indefinitely. It is something that is unique to the sufferer. It's a common mental health disorder that millions of American's suffer with every day. For me, anxiety is the shaking within my body. Like that little shock feeling, the sweat that develops on the back of your neck, the hot flush of your cheeks when you get nervous about something. I obsessed over every thought, attached to any negative feeling or word or article, and thought about it over and over in my head every minute of the day until what remained was an exhausted shell of who I really was. Then, as tired as I was by the end of the day, I laid down, cozy and soft in my bed, next to my loving fiance, unable to put my mind to rest. I couldn't even escape it with sleep.
This is simply an article to show the reader what anxiety CAN look like. If you suffer from this disorder, you know the guilt and isolation that can come along side it. I can't tell you how may times I've faked a smile to my fiance, who is so positive and optimistic about everything in life. I was so afraid my negative perspective of things would rub off on him, damper his mood, affect the way he talks to me. I really shut off a lot of my anxiety to him, then became frustrated when the subject came up and he had no idea how to respond to it.
It is different for everyone who succumbs to it. However, I think most people with anxiety would agree that it's absolutely life changing. It is a disorder that can numb you to the world, leave you lifeless, and desert the things you once cared about. My anxiety covered me like a thick glue. I was stuck in place, not able to move forward or backward. When I laid down on the couch, I couldn't move to get back up. It was so paralyzing. All the while, guilt plagued my mind as my fiance and daughter looked at me with discontent, not knowing what to do with me.
My journey to recovery is not close to being over. I continued to see my therapist. At first, if anything, it was incredibly relieving just to talk it out with someone without the fear of judgement on their part. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that there is no shame is asking for help. There was at first, absolutely. But that faded when I realized it was helping.
Anxiety is one of those things, for me, that couldn't exactly be cured my prescriptions. I believe they can help. For me, in the past, they took the edge off and made me see the possibility of getting better. During this phase in my life though, I had no desire to get back on medication. I was determined to cure myself. So, I started to ask myself... what can I do right now to be happier? Anything at all, what can I do? What can I do? Not anyone else.
Facebook was a repetitive addiction, a little blue square of nuisance on the home screen of my Android, something I went to several times a day to escape my own thoughts. But nothing on it made me happy. I had "friends" on there I didn't care about. I had "liked" pages that circulated heated debates about politics, the rising crime rates in America, school shootings. I realized that very few things I scrolled through on my news feed bred positivity. It didn't make me happy, so I eliminated it.
Coffee is a common addiction for most of us. I had always been caffeine sensitive, but I loved the taste of it in the mornings. Before work, my fiance and I would drink coffee together. It was just something we did, and we enjoyed it. But the effects of caffeine weren't good for me physically, or mentally. It'd make me jittery and on edge. It gave me energy I had no idea what to do with throughout the day. It heightened my anxiety. I didn't like the way it made me feel. It didn't make me happy, so I eliminated it.
During my personal search to make myself happier, I thought of the things I DID do throughout the day that made me happy. I came up empty. Aside from spending time with my family, which made me very happy, I never really did anything for myself. I remembering staring at the bookshelf in my living room, one I walked past several times a day, full of books I had read years ago, and getting that warm feeling of sticking my nose in a good piece of fiction. It had been years since I read a new book. Reading made me happy, and also occupied my mind in a good way, so I researched my favorite genres and ordered a new book on Amazon. Reading made me happy, so I was going to start doing that.
The point I'm trying to make here is that for people with anxiety, I think it's really important to search within yourself and find things that make you happy. It won't cure your anxiety, and it won't fix all of your problems, but it will HELP. And, during this anxious phase of my life, it helped tremendously. Just these little things I decided to take action on made a difference, and you have to start somewhere.
One piece of advice my therapist stressed over and over, and something I will give to anyone suffering in any way, mental or physical or both, is to be kind to yourself. If you are plagued with negative thoughts and dwell on them, there's probably a reason, and that reason is enough. It's OKAY to feel this way. It's OKAY to think these things. It's OKAY. We're all human on an unknown journey, running through our lives the best way we know how, and we often get lost along the way. It's so important to be easy on yourself, to try to let go of the guilt you feel.
In conclusion, if you are reading this and you have anxiety, or depression, or any other kind of mental disorder that has kept you inside of your own head for days, weeks, or months at a time, and it feels like there is no escape, please realize that you are not alone. You are getting by the best way you can. Reach within yourself and find what makes you happy. Go breath the fresh air, even for just a minute. Find something that will possibly make you smile for one second. Be kind to yourself, and never stop seeking a solution.
Thank you for reading my journey.